Friday afternoon I made a mess at the local Tractor Supply. I’m in real dire need of some good work boots; not the kind that lace up and not the kind that turn my feet into two miniature ovens. Just some sturdy leather pull-on boots with a steel toe to ward off the cow’s hooves when they step on me. My knee-high muck boots were just dandy until the temperatures rose above 100 degrees (sometime in late May). The rubber boots literally melt around my calves and ankles, and even though they keep my feet safe from mesquite thorns, they just won’t do through the rest of this long, ridiculous summer.
I know the feed stores don’t stock many ladies boots but assumed I could find something in men’s that would work. It was a quiet afternoon at the Tractor Supply, and one by one, each employee came by to make sure the odd woman in a sundress was in the right place. The majority of the staff were older men in beat-up cowboy hats, their faces sun-wrinkled and leathered. They shuffled up in that bow-legged way that says most of their early years were spent on horseback, and in words jumbled by a wad of tobacco in their lip they mumbled, “May-um, cain I help yew, cuz this here’s the men’s boots. Do yew know there ain’t no small men’s shoes?” Um, yes thanks, that much is obvious – as a size 8 man’s boot swallows my foot. “I’ve got huge feet – thanks for asking though!” I smile sweetly and turn back to a row of Justin’s. Thing is – there ain’t no small men’s shoes and there ain’t no women’s work boots, either. I’ve met too many petite and tough-as-nails ranch women to think they go unshod into the pasture. So what’s the trick, and why aren’t we represented there on the aisles of the feed store?
After quite some time I finally stomped out of the store, leaving a pile of shoes behind me. The group of weathered employees who eyed me for an hour were now huddled near the edge of the shoes, speaking in hushed voices and glancing over at me occasionally – this girl in delicate sandals, leather purse and flowing sundress amidst racks of overalls, cattle prods, and equine wormer.
Guess I stood out.
Over the weekend I re-watched snippets of Giant. And not that I’m (at all) comparing myself to Liz Taylor’s Leslie, but I’ll be damned if her closing lines don’t just make me grin silly: “Home? Where do you think I’ve been this breathless last quarter of a century? Home? Look boy, I belong here.” Now I’ve got the words the next time I run into a cowboy in the boot aisle at Tractor Supply. Look here, boy….
And don’t you worry about my pretty little feet. I found a nice, small pair through the magic of the internet, God bless it.